I have long been fascinated with the idea of creative constraints. While I feel like we are told that we need freedom to find our way and express ourselves, I have frequently found the opposite to be true; when I force boundary conditions, either temporal or otherwise, onto a project, I can begin to explore the space and truly get creative. The flip side, unlimited possibilities, just feels like staring into the abyss and I have no idea where to start. So in the spirit of my Lentil and Alphabet challenge adventures, I thought I would fully embrace that spirit for 2020.
Each month take up a new challenge that I will focus on for the duration of the month.
I have a tentative plan for the twelve months, but for now I’m just going to focus on January: building this website and blog. After having registered the domain and started it more than two years ago, I have only ever made two entries. I want to develop it not as a means of revenue or anything, but as an outlet to force myself to clarify my thoughts, combined with the accountability of making any commitments public. Additionally, as I progress to the other months it will be helpful to have created systems for regular posting to guard against the compounding time commitment.
So for January, I will:
Post one blog entry every day.
The everyday posting has a few motivations behind it. As part of the overarching theme of this year I want to Produce More, Consume Less. To cook, draw, write, etc. more and to binge watch fewer shows on Netflix. But frequently I struggle with perfectionism that impairs getting started on something. So some of the themes this year will be to: Start Small and Make Bad Art.
Start Small: I’ve subscribed to Seth Godin’s daily blog for over a year now and for eighteen (!) years he has posted every day. To some degree that is intimidating, but the length of the posts is small. A little over a year ago he posted talking about how ‘The first 1,000 are the most difficult’, but after “people get to posting #200 or beyond, they uniformly report that they’re glad they did it.” I’ve had this starred in my Gmail since then, meaning to get started. But starting is always the hardest part. I read James Clear’s Atomic Habits around April of last year and began incorporating some of the principles to building up habits, but starting small seems to be a common thread. So while I want to post every day, having no length requirement is key. I would like to write posts that are curated and well thought out, but if one day I just write a sentence that still counts.
Make Bad Art: In Neil Gaimen’s 2012 University of the Arts graduation ceremony speech, he implores the cap and gowned crowd to ‘Make Good Art’. To focus on transforming the painful, the bizarre, and the various mistakes in our lives into good art. And I completely agree. But I also want to examine the opposite stance: Make Bad Art. Not to deliberately produce things that are of poor quality, but rather to focus on producing something, anything, rather than being paralyzed but worrying about its quality. This is perhaps less antithetical to his message than just the diction of the words themselves. There is the much referenced story of the photography or pottery (depends on the telling) teacher who divided his class into two halves: one half would focus on quality and their entire grade would come down to only one photo or pot. The other half would focus on quantity and they would be graded solely on how many photos or pieces of pottery they produced. At the end of the semester, the teacher found that the half that focused on quantity also produced the highest quality because they were focused on producing and learning from their mistakes rather than being consumed by trying to produce something that was ‘perfect’. So in that vein I want to relieve some of that analysis paralysis of trying to make everything perfect and instead to produce regularly and give myself permission to Make. Bad. Art.
I have a few ideas of things I want to write about over the next month, but if anything I wrote resonated with you or you want to start a conversation, I’d love to chat.
Thanks for reading and Happy 2020 everyone!